The Legislature faces the likelihood of evening sessions this week and possibly a Saturday session to debate measures intended to help bring a computer chip manufacturer to Oma-ha, rather than having it locate in Utah.
Speaker of the Legislature Ron Withem of Papillion said he wants lawmakers to complete debate on the three bills so that each can face a final vote by Feb. 28.The three proposals topped the Legislature's agenda today for additional debate at the first stage of floor consideration. They also faced opposition and the possibility of a filibuster from some rural lawmakers.
Micron Technology Inc. of Boise, Idaho, has indicated a choice for the new plant will be announced by March 1. The finalists for the $1.3 billion plant and its 3,500 jobs are Omaha, Oklahoma City and Payson, Utah.
Gov. Ben Nelson said Monday that he doesn't want the Micron legislation to be endangered by rural lawmakers through demands for vote trading.
The bills require an investment of $50 million and at least 500 new jobs for companies to be eligible for various incentives. The incentives would have to be approved by a three-member board made up of the governor, the state treasurer and the chairman of the State Investment Council.
Sen. Janis McKenzie of Harvard has indicated there could be a move to demand more support for the state's ethanol incentive fund in return for support of the Micron measures. The fund provides tax credits for producers of corn-based ethanol.
While McKenzie indicated she wanted to avoid a filibuster, an opponent of the Micron legislation, Sen. George Coordsen of Hebron, said a successful filibuster probably couldn't be mounted.
"For one thing, we changed the rules on filibusters this year so that they can be stopped a lot easier," Coordsen said. "And it would appear that these bills have their support pretty much lined up."
Coordsen said that while he would like to see urban support for the ethanol fund, he also has legitimate concerns about the Micron bills.
"I think it is bad policy to give such broad authority to cities to get into tax-increment financing and declare land, up to 10 miles from town, to be blighted and substandard," Coordsen said. "I have some real questions about whether we are just doing something to get Micron, or if this setting up a system that could cause all kinds of problems down the road."
Nelson and Withem said it would be inappropriate for the state to lose a chance to land the Micron plant because of unrelated issues such as the ethanol fund.
"Most legislation doesn't have anything to do with packaging and deals or anything of the sort," Withem said Monday. "Most legislation is passed through mutual good will and trust.
"When I have a problem in my part of the state my colleagues help me and when they have a problem in their part of the state I help them," he said. "I suppose there is the possibility that overly zealous attempts (to block the Micron bills in hopes of getting a deal) could run counter to that spirit of cooperation."